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Poor Publicity Killed Referendum


It just wasn't sexy enough. While 43 percent of the student body voted in the Undergraduate Council elections in December, a paltry 13 percent registered their opinion on the budget referenda which followed on its heels. Why? Poor timing and poor publicity, not to mention apathy. In the future, the council and the student body should take more seriously the issues, and not merely the personalities spotlighted in the election.

It is all too easy in hindsight, the petty politicking of the race for council president and vice president thankfully behind us, to say that the referenda on increased grants to student groups and block grants to house committees should have been held at the same time as the election to garner better turnout. All too easy, perhaps, but entirely appropriate. While we strongly opposed the referendum, we oppose even more strongly the actions of those four council executives who delayed the referendum in order to quash the student voice. Higher turnout would have resulted from a change in the voting date, allowing the will of the people to be better expressed.

What the council should have done was schedule the budget referenda at the same time as the elections but require two different ballots. To vote for candidates, a student could have typed "ucrace" at the fas% prompt, and to vote for the budget issues, "ucmoney." This would have separated the campaign from the issues, a distinction that naturally occurred anyway.

Rescheduling notwithstanding, the council also should have publicized the referenda more. Each Undergraduate Council presidential and vice presidential candidate received money for campaign materials; surely each referendum deserved at least the same publicity.

In the future, when the council takes a referendum to the people, we would like to see it well-publicized all over campus and discussed in its own debate. If not, the council can look forward to more embarrassing low turnouts, and the students can bet that they will not be offered many more popular votes. Both prospects bode poorly for any semblance of a democratic student government at Harvard.

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